The United Nations created the International Day of Happiness, which is celebrated Wednesday (today), to recognize "the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world..."
It's a different way of evaluating nations apart from their economic wealth. With that in mind, I thought about a report last year from the London-based think tank Legatum Group that ranked 142 countries and came up with a Prosperity Index. It weighed factors like health, education, governance, personal freedom, etc.
The overall happiness rankings came out like this:
5. New Zealand
8. The Netherlands
The numbers change when you filter by various criteria. For example, New Zealand ranks No. 1 for education; Luxembourg, No. 1 for health; and Canada, No. 1 for personal freedom. (Go to the Prosperity Index map and create your own rankings by category.)
A separate Gallup World Poll taken between 2005 and 2011 came up with the same top 10 happiest nations as Legatum, though in a slightly different order (Denmark was No. 1). The World Happiness Report last year provides more data and tables on the topic.
What does this all mean? Some countries have a ways to go to boost their happiness quotient -- combating obstacles such as poverty, illiteracy, disease, etc. -- and the world as a whole has a responsibility to see that changes are made. How nice to set aside a day to foster exactly that.